Dillon's wedding vow


`MOST associate James Dillon with being stately and old-fashioned, but his marriage was a whirlwind romance. He proposed within three days of meeting 22-year-old Maura Phelan from Clonmel and they married the following month. They were utterly happy." Sen- ator Maurice Manning says this is one of the surprising things he discovered during his six years researching his major work James Dillon: a Biography which is published later this month by Wolfhound. But Manning adds that Dillon had an ambition to be married before he was 40 and missed it by four days - which takes a bit of the passion out of it.

It's the fourth serious book from Manning, FG leader in the Seanad and a lecturer in politics in UCD. His first novel, Betrayal, was such a success that he is now working on a second centred on a fictional government press secretary, but this time instead of dodgy politicians it features a clerical scandal involving a murdered bishop, a scarlet woman and missing millions.

Dillon was FG leader from 1959 to 1965 and the first politician to reach the top without a 1916 background, although he was never taoiseach.

The 500-page biography will have two launches, by John Bruton in Dublin, and a week later by another former taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, in Dillon's home, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.